09/07/2011, 00.00
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9/11 after ten years, dialogue with the Islam of peace

by Nirmala Carvalho
Fr Victor Edwin, an expert in Muslim-Christians relations, explains how relations between the two communities have changed and what situation the Muslim world faces in the wake of the 2001 attacks in New York City. For Indian Muslims, illiteracy is the main enemy.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – “Several prominent Muslim clerics and scholars condemned the attack on the Twin Towers and other bomb attacks on innocent people. They declared in unambiguous terms that Islam does not support violence and terrorism,” said Fr Victor Edwin, a Jesuit priest and PhD student candidate studying Christian-Muslim relations at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University. Speaking ten years after the attack against New York’s Twin Towers, he looks at how Christian-Muslim relations and the Muslim world have changed.

The Jesuit clergyman remembers initiatives taken by Muslim clergymen, theologians and scholars in favour of dialogue and cooperation with the Christian and non-Christian world.

“In November 2004,” he said, “Muslim scholars from 45 countries gathered under the leadership of H.M. King Abdullah II ibn al- Hussein of Jordan and launched a very important initiative called the Amman Message that condemned all forms of extremism and indiscriminate killing. The message emphasized the oneness of humanity and informed the world that Islam stands for peace and that any violence in the name of Islam is contrary to its nature.”

In October 2007, “138 high profile Muslim scholars,” addressed ‘A Common Word’, “primarily to the Holy Father” in which they “invited some 27 other Christian leaders to gather in a common ground in order to work for peace and harmony in the World.”

“These are bold initiatives in the charged atmosphere,” Fr Edwin said.

Yet, “While these efforts strive for understanding and peace, the Arab Spring that started in Tunisia pleasantly surprised everyone. Tens and thousands of young people both Muslims and Christians, especially in Egypt, demanded employment, free and fair elections, democracy and rule of law. [. . .] These initiatives and events indicate Islam affirms its legitimate voice for peace and justice. This momentum needs to be sustained. That is the major task for Muslim thinkers for the time to come.”

India too felt the impact of 9/11. Fr Victor Ediwn, who is also the Editor of Salaam, an Islamic Studies Association journal, noted, “Indian culture is composite and draws nourishment from the teachings of sufis and sadhus, literature and paintings, arts and architecture, religions and languages. India has developed a unique wisdom that gels different people as one family. However, this integration is under severe pressure. The right wing outfits like the RSS through their devious ideology work hard to weaken the compositeness of our culture. The engineered pogroms against Dalits, Muslims and Christians destroy the bonds that have been nurtured over centuries. The 9/11 and 26/11 added pressure on Muslims.”

“One of the main enemies of Muslims in India is illiteracy. [. . .] Muslims need to work on the modernization of their religious schools. The madrasa curriculum is said to be more backward looking than forward looking. In this context, the task of Christian engagement with Muslims is pertinent. [. . .] The Church needs to be conscious of the hesitation in reaching out to Muslims.”
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